U.S. Army’s current, future network capabilities interoperate for stronger force

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — While the Army’s newest gen­er­a­tion of its tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work back­bone under­goes its oper­a­tional test this spring, an upgrad­ed ver­sion of its ear­li­er coun­ter­part will also par­tic­i­pate in the test to ensure seam­less con­nec­tiv­i­ty and inter­op­er­abil­i­ty.

Sol­diers test­ed Warfight­er Infor­ma­tion Net­work-Tac­ti­cal Incre­ment 1 equip­ment at the Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion 11.2. in June 2011. (U.S. Army pho­to)
Click to enlarge

The com­bi­na­tion of Warfight­er Infor­ma­tion Net­work-Tac­ti­cal, known as WIN‑T, Incre­ment 2, which rep­re­sents the next gen­er­a­tion of on-the-move tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and Incre­ment 1b, which will refresh the at-the-halt net­work that is cur­rent­ly used in the­ater, will be put to the test in real­is­tic oper­a­tional sce­nar­ios to gauge how it trans­mits and deliv­ers essen­tial infor­ma­tion across the force. Because the Army will deliv­er these upgrad­ed capa­bil­i­ties to deployed units on a stag­gered sched­ule, there will be “hybrid” net­work archi­tec­tures on the bat­tle­field that must be ful­ly integrated. 

“Every incre­ment of the tac­ti­cal net­work has its place in the force,” said Col. Edward Swan­son, project man­ag­er for WIN‑T. “The key to suc­cess is to ensure the cur­rent and future incre­ments can inter­op­er­ate and deliv­er the crit­i­cal data on the bat­tle­field, whether it’s the loca­tion of friend­ly forces, or a call for fire.” 

The WIN‑T Incre­ment 2 Ini­tial Oper­a­tional Test and Eval­u­a­tion, or IOT&E, will be held in con­junc­tion with the Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion, or NIE, 12.2 at White Sands Mis­sile Range, N.M., in May. As part of the test, the 1st Sus­tain­ment Brigade in Fort Riley, Kan., will uti­lize Incre­ment 1b for con­nec­tiv­i­ty into the Incre­ment 2 net­work to demon­strate and test the inter­op­er­abil­i­ty between the two ver­sions. In prepa­ra­tion for the event, four weeks of WIN‑T Incre­ment 1b New Equip­ment Train­ing, known as NET, began in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary for the 1st Sus­tain­ment Brigade. 

Two weeks of NET Tac­ti­cal Hub Node train­ing is also sched­uled for ear­ly March for the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion, at Fort Camp­bell, Ky., which will serve as the divi­sion head­quar­ters ele­ment for the IOT&E.

WIN‑T Incre­ment 2 is a major enhance­ment to the tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions back­bone and a crit­i­cal piece of Capa­bil­i­ty Set 13 — the first inte­grat­ed group of net­work tech­nolo­gies out of the NIE process that will be field­ed to up to eight brigade com­bat teams start­ing in fis­cal year 2013. The semi-annu­al NIEs lever­age a full brigade com­bat team to assess new net­work capa­bil­i­ties in a real­is­tic oper­a­tional environment. 

WIN‑T Incre­ments 1 and 2 have already suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed a num­ber of oth­er inter­op­er­abil­i­ty tests, both at the Joint Inter­op­er­abil­i­ty Test Com­mand at Fort Huachu­ca, Ariz., and at the Cen­tral Tech­ni­cal Sup­port Facil­i­ty at Fort Hood, Texas, which con­ducts ongo­ing Army Inter­op­er­abil­i­ty Cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, said Lt. Col. Robert Collins, prod­uct man­ag­er for WIN‑T Incre­ments 2 and 3. 

Incre­ments 1 and 2 were also inte­grat­ed dur­ing the NIE 12.1 in Octo­ber-Novem­ber 2011, which gave the Army a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to eval­u­ate WIN‑T Incre­ment 2 in an oper­a­tional envi­ron­ment and obtain ini­tial Sol­dier feed­back six months before its for­mal IOT&E.

“It was a use­ful exer­cise and prob­a­bly one of the unique times that we will equip a sin­gle brigade with both WIN‑T Incre­ment 1 and Incre­ment 2,” Collins said. “They were able to inter­op­er­ate rel­a­tive­ly well in this construct.” 

Help­ing to ensure the inter­op­er­abil­i­ty of the dif­fer­ent incre­ments and net­work com­po­nents of WIN‑T is the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Sys­tems Design Cen­ter, at Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, Md., which con­tains both WIN‑T Incre­ment 1 and Incre­ment 2 tech­nol­o­gy to test oper­a­tional require­ments and inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with­in the net­work. Cur­rent­ly, it is con­duct­ing inte­gra­tion and pre-test­ing for WIN‑T Incre­ment 1 and Incre­ment 2 inter­op­er­abil­i­ty for the upcom­ing IOT&E.

Sim­i­lar to a home Inter­net con­nec­tion, WIN‑T Incre­ment 1 estab­lish­es a net­work back­bone that pro­vides the full range of data, voice and video com­mu­ni­ca­tions at bat­tal­ion lev­el and above, with Sol­diers hav­ing only to pull over to the side of the road to com­mu­ni­cate. WIN‑T Incre­ment 2 intro­duces addi­tion­al capa­bil­i­ties includ­ing an ini­tial on-the-move com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work that reach­es down to the com­pa­ny ech­e­lon for the first time. 

To date, WIN‑T Incre­ment 1 equip­ment has been field­ed to rough­ly 200 units, or 96 per­cent of the units iden­ti­fied to receive Incre­ment 1 equip­ment. But it is head­ing toward a big mile­stone in mid-spring when the Incre­ment 1 field­ings will be 100 per­cent com­plete, pro­vid­ing for the first time a WIN‑T Incre­ment 1‑equipped force across the entire Army. 

In rough­ly the same time­frame, the WIN‑T Incre­ment 1a upgrades will also be com­plet­ed, estab­lish­ing a com­mon base­line across the force. Army units orig­i­nal­ly field­ed with the ear­li­est ver­sion of the Army’s net­work, the Joint Net­work Node that began field­ing in 2004, are being upgrad­ed to this com­mon base­line. Incre­ment 1a pro­vides new­er tech­nol­o­gy for increased capa­bil­i­ty, a longer equip­ment life cycle and more effi­cient tech­nol­o­gy refreshments. 

Incre­ment 1a units can com­mu­ni­cate direct­ly with one anoth­er with min­i­mum lag and opti­mum results. How­ev­er, if need­ed they can also oper­ate with Incre­ment 2 units. An Incre­ment 1a unit can “talk” to an Incre­ment 2 unit, but instead of using a direct link, it needs to take two “hops” instead of just one direct trans­mis­sion. The sig­nal is first sent from the Incre­ment 1a loca­tion to a hub node, either to a Region­al Hub Node or to a divi­sion head­quar­ters Tac­ti­cal Hub Node, and the node then sends it to the Incre­ment 2 location. 

The upcom­ing WIN‑T Incre­ment 1b upgrade pro­vides increased inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with Incre­ment 2 by tak­ing advan­tage of the Net­work Cen­tric Wave­form, or NCW, through use of an NCW modem for satel­lite trans­mis­sions. The NCW is a more capa­ble wave­form and allows for increased effi­cien­cy of the exist­ing band­width on satel­lites. WIN‑T Incre­ment 1b will add the Incre­ment 2 NCW modem to all of its Satel­lite Trans­portable Ter­mi­nals, act­ing as a bridge between Incre­ment 1 and Incre­ment 2. 

Both of the two cur­rent modems will be retained in Incre­ment 1b sys­tems, but the addi­tion of the NCW modem pro­vides direct trans­mis­sion between Incre­ment 1 and Incre­ment 2 nodes, said Shan­non Jones, Oper­a­tions and Spe­cial Projects chief for PdM WIN‑T Incre­ment 1. 

To fur­ther increase inter­op­er­abil­i­ty, WIN‑T Incre­ment 1b will incor­po­rate a “col­or­less core” secu­ri­ty enclave, which will also be uti­lized by Incre­ment 2. The col­or­less core increas­es capa­bil­i­ty by encrypt­ing all data, both clas­si­fied and unclas­si­fied, as it is trans­port­ed over satel­lites and line-of-sight links, enabling Sol­diers to send infor­ma­tion across the bat­tle­field more secure­ly and effi­cient­ly than ever before. 

WIN‑T Incre­ment 1b and Incre­ment 2 also share the same base­line set of Net­work Oper­a­tions tools, although Incre­ment 2 NetOps have addi­tion­al capa­bil­i­ties. NetOps facil­i­tate the plan­ning, ini­tial­iza­tion, mon­i­tor­ing, man­age­ment and response of the network. 

Begin­ning in late sum­mer, the Army will start to upgrade all WIN‑T Incre­ment 1a units to Incre­ment 1b, with a pro­ject­ed com­ple­tion date expect­ed in fis­cal year 2016. Due to the amount of time it will take to field Incre­ment 1b across the force, over the next sev­er­al years there will be some hybrid net­work archi­tec­tures on the bat­tle­field, Jones said. 

“Poten­tial­ly you could have Incre­ments 1a, 1b and 2 all fight­ing in the same bat­tle­space,” Jones said. “We need to ensure that every­thing is inter­op­er­a­ble and that all net­works are healed at the hub node at a minimum.” 

Going for­ward, Incre­ment 1b will be field­ed to all of the units that will not be receiv­ing Incre­ment 2. Pro­por­tion­al­ly one third of the Army’s sys­tems will be field­ed with Incre­ment 2, while the remain­ing two thirds will remain with Incre­ment 1b. WIN‑T Incre­ment 2 will be field­ed to divi­sion head­quar­ters and brigade com­bat teams, known as BCTs, at the brigade and below lev­el where the on-the-move capa­bil­i­ty is crit­i­cal. All oth­er units that are not BCTs will retain Incre­ment 1b equip­ment, which oper­ates at-the-halt, Jones said. 

“A lot of the inter­op­er­abil­i­ty comes down to how you con­fig­ure things,” Jones said. “We have the right hard­ware in place. It’s just a mat­ter of mak­ing sure we con­fig­ure things cor­rect­ly to account for all of the dif­fer­ences out there, and not just with WIN‑T capa­bil­i­ties, but with all oth­er com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems that par­tic­i­pate in the tac­ti­cal network.” 

U.S. Army 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefence.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →